By: Stan Temming
TORONTO - The No. 3 Ryerson Rams men's basketball team made school history on their home court in the OUA Wilson Cup final Saturday night. Down 13 points at halftime, the Rams battled all the way back to knock off the No. 1 Carleton Ravens 73-68 and claim the first OUA championship in school history.
"It's big for the university, it's big for all of us, it's big for all of the alumni, for all of the players that played here," said Ryerson's Aaron Best while wrapped in the OUA banner following the game. "It's huge because it's a testament to the work that everybody put in. Not just everybody on this team but everybody's who's played for this team since the beginning."
Best led the Rams offensively with a game-high 21 points and was instrumental to the comeback in the third quarter. Down 40-27 at half, Ryerson pulled up their socks after the Ravens dominated in the rebounding department. Carleton's 16 second chance points in the first twenty minutes alone (compared to Ryerson's zero) was the difference through two quarters.
"I basically said, 'we gotta play together and we gotta own the glass'," explained Rams' head coach Patrick Tatham. "If we own the glass in the second half, the game is over and sure enough, they came out and owned the glass in the second so kudos to the guys."
"When we first played them on our home court, we were down 14-2 and we said in that game, as we said in this game, if we defend the glass to one shot, we give ourselves a chance," added Ryerson's special assistant to the head coach Mikaela Berza. "In the second half, we did a much, much better job and I think that was the big difference."
The Rams were able to erase the 13 point spread by the end of the third quarter. Tied at 55-55 going into the final ten minutes, some of Carleton's top players got into foul trouble and Ryerson took advantage. Back-and-forth all the way, a free throw by the Rams' JV Mukama with ten seconds left made it a four point game and sealed the victory.
Ryerson's Adika Peter-McNeilly finished with 16 points and Mukama added 11. Defensively, Kadeem Green was the star for the Rams. His six blocks and eight rebounds electrified the rowdy, blue-and-yellow home court on Coca-Cola Court.
"The crowd (was) unreal," said Tatham. "At one point I felt my skin trembling because it was so loud and I think that kind of pushed the guys over the top once we tied it at… 55. Once we got that, I mean, it was just all downhill from there. We were just kind of rolling."
Connor Wood finished with a team-high 20 points for the Ravens, 17 of which came in the first half. Gavin Resch added 15 and Ryan Ejim 10.
Both teams advance to the CIS Championship next weekend at the University of British Columbia. With the win, Ryerson will likely be the tournament's top seed and Carleton the number two.
NOTES: Ryerson finally wins OUA gold after seven second place finishes in the history of their athletics program… The Rams finished 39.6% from the floor (21-for-53) while the Ravens shot 28.9% (22-for-76)... Best was also named the Porter Airlines Player of the Game.